Updated: Apr 24
Working out has always been a standard part of my vocabulary, typically referring to going to the gym, running, or performing some other cardiovascular exercise. The purpose of working out was so that I could lose weight, tone my muscles, etc. My intention through working out was to alter my appearance, for what I assumed would be better, healthier, or more attractive.
For a long time, I worked out as punishment for eating badly. I would exercise excessively to try to rid my body of the unnecessary calories I had consumed, according to my extremely deliberate calorie counting. Or if the numbers on the scale went up, I would try to exercise, even in a sweatsuit, to shed weight. This was not a healthy way to get exercise. Other than changing the numbers on the scale and fueling my anxiety, I accomplished little.
One of the many urges that came along with my eating disorders was exercise. Finally, for once in my life, I didn’t feel that I needed to purge by working out. This ultimately ended up with me not working out at all. As I’m sure you know, exercise isn’t just a way to lose weight, but it is vital for our health. A body in motion stays in motion. It’s physics.
This actually continued for a few years and I was essentially sedentary; working a desk job and only taking the occasional walk as exercise. This led to aches and pains returning, as well as feeling emotionally and mentally stagnant. When I finally began yoga, I had absolutely no intention of becoming obsessed with it, but I did. However, this was different than what I had experienced by working out in the past.
Rather than feeling obsessed with the idea that yoga was helping with weight loss, I became obsessed with the feeling that came with yoga. Through my yoga practice I felt that my mind and body became more connected. Prior to doing yoga, I had the common misconception that you needed to be flexible to do it. I just assumed it wasn’t for me. But the truth is, if you can breathe, you can do yoga.
I don’t feel like I’m working out when I do yoga. Instead, I feel like I’m working in. Working on my inner-self, connecting mind and body, and conquering my ego by respecting my body’s limitations. Rather than feeling exhausted after a class, I feel invigorated. One of my yoga instructors regularly says, “If you don’t feel good after yoga, you’re doing it wrong.” And by wrong, she means listening to your ego and pushing your body beyond its limits.
“Yoga is a journey of the self through the self to the self.”Bhagavad Gita
I find that by working “in” rather than “out,” I am still getting exercise. Yoga is extremely helpful for aligning the body, deepening breath, improving the cardiovascular and digestive systems, nervous systems, etc.; so your body is still benefiting exponentially from your practice, but it is the work that has been done inside that has been truly immeasurable for me. I have a newfound respect and love for my body that I didn’t have when I was working out as a means of purging.
Working in is working on the inside: the mind and body. We all too often forget how connected these two things are. If you aren’t feeling well mentally, it will affect your body, and vice versa. Learn about your body and its limitations. Look inward for healing, and the outside will follow.